Out of the Woods and Trees
Chris Chinchilla reports from the outback of beyond

Dr Dog, We All Belong

I reviewed one of Dr Dog's past albums, though now looking back through their productive back catalogue, with an album every year, I'm not entirely sure I remember which one it was. The band subscribe to the pack them in and out quickly approach, We all belong is 38 minutes long and not exactly over produced. It is eleven tracks of laid back bluesy, maybe 'swampy' multi-instrumental rock, chocker-block with slick harmonies and chunky riffs, all skilfully played by a bunch of mysterious Americans who's names all begin with the letter 'T'. It's simple, straightforward, uncomplicated and succinct. Just like this review.

Various Artists, Out of the Woods and Trees (DTTR)

It can't have escaped many people in the world's attention that the North of England has been producing a tremendous amount of popular and fashionable music over the past two years. Led by the success of bands like Kaiser Chiefs and Maximo Park, a lot of sound-a-likes spawned, creating a glut of poor imitators and glory chasers and often those who didn't sound anything like any of the glory stories were left by the wayside. The Dance to The Radio label led by Forward Russia and The Pigeon Detectives has been a mainstay of the 'Northern music scene', showcasing some of the smaller acts from the region and Out of the Woods and Trees is the labels fourth compilation, weighing in at 20 tracks. Some do sound a lot like what's come before, and sadly, what you almost expect from Northern England (Angular guitars and disco beats), but there are a few gems lurking on the compilation including the likes of The Taste, You Slut! and Grammatics. Possibly the 'scene's' time is now over, but judging by this compilation there's still the usual amount of great bands plying their trade, and undoubtedly they couldn't care less if anyone's paying any attention.

Bellaruche, Fat Freddy's Drop Metro

Kathrin deBoer of Bellaruche has a star quality, an ability to captivate and draw in a crowd, no matter how large. She fills the vast stage at the regal Metro nightclub with a stunning appearance and presence, her delicate and kookily sensuous dancing keeping all eyes firmly planted on her. This is before even mentioning her silky smooth voice that effortlessly floats above Bellaruche's chilled and mellow tunes, with guitar provided by the infinitely smiley Rickey Fabulous and scratches and beats provided by a last minute substitute (due to a plethora of immigration problems) in the form of Brisbane's DJ Thief.
The band set the mood admirably and the sold out crowd are starting to slowly bob and move their feet to music provided by DJ Thief, the mood is electric, friendly and up for a long night. The air starts to fill with the smell of Marijuana, and whilst this flaunting of the smoking ban annoys some of the crowd it wouldn't feel like a Reggae/Dub/Hip-Hop gig without that fragrance hanging in the air.

There's something to be said for making occasionally forays into less familiar genres, to witness the talent and technical ability that some musicians posses, and to see how some crowds actually show their appreciation for the music they are watching, rather than attempting to look fashionable the entire set.

Perhaps the best and most fascinating thing about Fat Freddy's Drop is the individuality of all the members, Joe Dukie is the epitome of cool, pristine attire and seemingly the most controlled and effortless voice in the business. Warryn, Tony and Ho on horns each posses their own comically differing traits, Tony is sharp and restrained, looking like a cooler English Public School boy, and Ho has no shame, stripping off throughout the gig and treating the crowd to some of the most outrageous and embarrassing dancing. The band plays so well together, and put on such a professional, tight and enjoyable show it's hard to resist the throbbing beats and seductive melodies. It's clear that a lot of the set is improvised, with basic song structures in place for the feel of the evening to take hold, but the band are such a tight and close unit that it only takes a slight wink or nod for everyone to know what's going on and what's happening next. It means that no two shows are the same, but any crowd lucky enough to be witnessing Fat Freddy's Drop is guaranteed to be part of one of the most vibrant and dynamic shows in town.

Sir, Guy Blackman & Sly Hats Nothcote Social Club

It's a lazy Sunday afternoon after a seemingly long weekend as music fans slowly start to emerge in the fineries of summer, T-shirts, Thongs and a slight glow as the days get warmer and the nights get longer. No one wants to stand tonight, rather lounge around The Northcote Social Club's floor and Sir aren't going to force them to commit to anything as they ease out the weekend with their sullen blend of sordid sexiness, love laments and brooding ballads. Jesse Jackson, the bands' male vocalist gloriously underplays his role as 'front man' and band leader, eyes rarely meeting the audience, his baritone voice wooing the crowd despite his tales of sadness and betrayal. Guest vocalist Jane Badler purrs through songs, her lips pouting, her eyes alluring, she posses that perfect 'Holywood' blend of glitzy glamour and restraint, giving you just enough to be lured into her trap, but no more. The band provides a near perfect bed of backing music to proceedings, creating and maintaining just the right moods for each song. Much like the subjects of several of their songs, the band leave to soon, the crowd wants them to spend more time, but it's not to be.
Guy Blackman and Sly Hats have just returned from a two month world tour, and tonight is their homecoming show. The guys look tired so they've got a backing band together for the occasion and take it in turns to play each others material. The songs deal with subjects common to artists of this ilk with both artists sitting at opposite ends of the spectrum, Sly Hats leans to the side of romanticised and fantastic tales of life and Guy Blackman weaves narrative lyrics around tales from his life, moving into a new area, his Mum, things like that. The music is 'nice'; a horrible word to use, but it's the best description that will gain instant understanding. The tunes trip along in a happy-go-lucky manner, ending slightly prematurely, but never challenging or demanding too much from the audience. These two songwriters are almost brotherly in appearance and their songs share an equal degree of similarity, a fine pair of musicians who produce great music apart and even better results together.

Chris Chinchilla

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